Irish head to R.I. for crucial series
Conor Kelly | Thursday, February 13, 2014
Coming off of a win over Maine on Saturday night in which senior forward Bryan Rust scored the tying and game-winning goals in the final two minutes, the No. 20 Irish travel to No. 9 Providence for a crucial two-game series with the Friars beginning tonight.Notre Dame (16-12-1, 5-9-1 Hockey East) currently sits tied for eighth place with Massachusetts, and, with just five conference games remaining, is rapidly running out of time to make an end-of-season push. Senior forward T.J. Tynan said that reality has created a sense of urgency on the team.
“I think we all know the importance of this weekend. We know that we need to get two wins against a very good Providence team,” Tynan said. “I think it’s just carrying over that energy from the last two minutes on Saturday into this week. The guys have had a lot of energy and looked good in practice this week.”
Saturday’s win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Irish, including being swept by unranked New Hampshire on the road. Notre Dame has just three road wins on the year and just one in Hockey East, a Nov. 2 victory at Vermont. With three of their remaining conference games away from the Compton Family Ice Arena, the Irish will have to shake off their away-game woes.
“It feels like there’s a little bit of a monkey on our back that we have to shake off,” Rust said. “We know if we stick to our game and to the little things — getting pucks and bodies to the net — that’s how we’re going to win games.”
While Notre Dame had been languishing before Saturday, Providence (15-8-5, 7-6-1) also has run into its own cold stretch, losing three in a row and going just 2-6-2 in its last ten games. Still, the Friars are a potent and dangerous squad backstopped by sophomore goaltender and first-team Hockey East selection Jon Gillies, maintaining a top-ten ranking despite a lackluster last month.
“Obviously, they’ve shown that they’re a great team,” Tynan said. “They’ve struggled, and we have too. I think both teams will be really desperate, and the intensity level is going to be very high on Friday night. It’ll be a good weekend for both teams.”
Both squads will be fighting for byes and seeding in the Hockey East tournament in this game, creating a playoff-like atmosphere, Tynan said.
“If guys aren’t feeling that way, somebody better tell them it’s playoff time because these games are just as important,” he said. “I think the older guys definitely realize what’s at stake, and the younger guys do too.”
With a tough month in the rearview mirror, the Irish will look to seize the momentum gathered in the final minutes of the third period against Maine and use it to propel them to a much-needed sweep of Providence before a final home series with Boston University and a season-ending visit to Boston College.
“I think for our team, we get confidence from that game,” Rust said. “We hadn’t been performing as well as we wanted, especially in Hockey East games. So going on the road this weekend, confidence is huge for us because we’re 1-6 on the road in Hockey East, which isn’t nearly where we want to be.”
“Like T.J. said, this is playoff time. We can’t afford to lose any more games.”
The Irish take the ice tonight at Schneider Arena in Providence, R.I, and will conclude the series Saturday night. Both games will begin at 7 p.m.
Contact Conor Kelly at [email protected]